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What's Inspiring Me - February 2022

· Writing,inspirations

It's been a while since I've talked about inspirations! Not for lack of inspiration, but for lack of time. The end of last year was a wild ride--editing one novel, continuing to forge ahead on another, and travelling back to the US for the first time since December 2019 to visit my parents and brother.

Ginger and Lemon Tea - travel under Covid restrictions is tricky, and the cold weather doesn't help. Fortunately we all stayed healthy, but I've gone full-German, enjoying a ginger & lemon tea at every opportunity this winter, for luck and for health. 

Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic - A classic of story-driven video games, it's also a very interesting artifact. It shows Bioware finding their way between Baldur's Gate and their future cinematic RPGs, like Mass Effect. A lot of what would become their signature structure was already in place, but the writing still has that loose, "we're just a bunch of friends writing in-jokes and tabletop rpg quests" quality. It also has a genuinely admirable focus. It's not a game that tries to overwhelm with quests and distractions. It wants to bring you to these worlds, tell a simple, focused short story on them, and then move on. 

The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet - My own writing tends toward the historical (with or without supernatural elements), and I guess that's why I sometimes gravitate toward other genres in my reading. I love it when I can read a book that isn't like anything I would have written and gain some insight into why it works for others, and even translate that into what I'm working on. The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet, by Becky Chambers, is THE book for people who like Mass Effect 2. It's essentially a series of character encounters, threaded together by the framing device of a long journey through space. Ultimately, the thematic aim of the book is to explore collaboration across difference--how can we disagree and yet build consensus and maintain a liberal society in the process. But apart from near the end, it rarely gets explicitly political. Rather, it focuses on the dynamics of its multi-species cast of characters, and how their differing cultures and biologies cause them to see the world differently. It takes these concepts and makes them deeply personal, much the way the outcome of Mass Effect 2 ultimately hinges on how well you, as Shepherd, manage your multi-species crew.

Der Friedhof der Märzgefallenen - My first novel is set amid the events of the revolution of 18 March 1848 in Berlin. The cemetery where the civilian dead of that day were buried still stands as a monument in Berlin, although it has undergone many redesigns over the years. During the Kaiser years, it was viewed as a gathering point for seditious activity. The Nazis also regarded it with suspicion--as a symbol of democracy. It is a place that has been contested over many generations and has survived to honor those (along with the revolutionaries of November 1918) who strove to create a democratic Germany. Currently, there is a plaque with the names of the dead of March 1848 on it, and a selection of the original grave markers on the periphery. (Many of the original markers were wood, because many of the dead of that day were poor and working class.) Every few months I pay a visit. This week, the buds of the flowers that have been planted on the site were peeking out of the ground. I expect it will be in full bloom in time for the anniversary of the revolution.





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